The absurd Treaty of Waitangi claims being made by iwi leaders for the ownership of pubic good resources that are the foundation of life itself are driving New Zealand towards a race relations tipping point.
In spite of the general goodwill of the public towards finally settling all genuine Treaty claims, naïve and self-interested politicians have instead taken the country down the path of appeasement. Appeasement is based on making concessions, but the problem is that over time demands incrementally become more unreasonable.
Last week’s Treaty settlement deal with Tuhoe is a case in point.1 At $170 million, it equals the largest settlements ever made to Ngai Tahu, Tainui, and for commercial fisheries. In addition, while “Cabinet policy has been that conservation land is not readily available for use in Treaty settlements, but small sites of high significance to iwi can be transferred”, in this deal, it is the half a million acre Urewera National Park that will be sacrificed.2 Presently owned by all New Zealanders, once the park is co-governed by Tuhoe, it will lose its National Park status.
As if giving away our National Park is not enough, Tuhoe will also gain “Mana Motuhake” or independence. TV3 described this as a “monumental” change because it opens up the potential establishment of an independent nation state.3 Through this deal, Tuhoe will take over the management and delivery of taxpayer funded social service in what amounts to the privatisation of government agencies in the area. While Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson has denied this will lead to a Tuhoe “nation within a nation”, this is clearly a step towards the creation of their own self-governing entity. Tama Iti may have his own private army after all!
The problem for New Zealand – as this Tuhoe case shows – is that appeasement simply encourages further claims. According to a report prepared for former Prime Minister David Lange in 1989 by Richard Hill of the Ministry of Justice – Settlements of Major Maori Claims in the 1940s: a Preliminary Investigation – Walter Nash’s Labour Government made a full and final settlement of £100,000 to Tuhoe in 1958 for “claims relating to the Urewera”.4 One only has to browse the pages of this report to see that all of the work that went into gaining agreement from tribal leaders for their “full and final settlements” in the early part of last century, has effectively been trashed by this generation of iwi corporations who have come back to demand more. Does anyone honestly think that this will not continue on and on into the future – ad nauseam – unless the system is changed?
Already Chris Finlayson’s generosity in settling claims is coming back to bite us. This new $170 million deal with Tuhoe will trigger the relativity clauses in the Tainui and Ngai Tahu settlements. That means that they will receive 17 percent and 16.1 percent respectively of the value of all settlements in excess of the $1 billion fiscal cap – calculated in 1994 dollar terms. The trigger point is estimated to be around $1.54 billion. With settlements expected to reach a total of $1.79 billion, Tianui and Ngai Tahu business leaders are anticipating a generous taxpayer-funded windfall gain.5
While New Zealanders are largely indifferent or disinterested when it comes to politics and political decisions, they do not like being taken advantage of – nor ripped off. Yet that is what is happening right now with claims for water and wind. Those making these demands are not only trampling on the fundamental right of New Zealanders to live freely in their own country, but they are severely compromising the ability of our democratically elected government to govern.
We have clearly reached another crossroad in defining who we are as New Zealanders. What sort of country do we want in the future: one governed by the iwi elite, or one where all New Zealanders – regardless of when they or their ancestors arrived – are treated equally in the eyes of the law and have equal rights and access over all of our public good resources?
This week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator David Round, a constitutional law and Treaty expert at Canterbury University, expresses a deep frustration at the dire state of race relations in his article We get the government we deserve. He looks at iwi claims for water and wind, and in his forthright manner condemns the actions of the politicians who have brought New Zealand to this point:
“The claim is just for a commercial use of wind, but if it should be the case that Maori do have some right to the air then that right would not, in principle, be just to commercial use of the air, but to all uses. And we all use the air, to stay alive. Maori now are claiming then, that they have a right to the very air which we breathe and which sustains life itself. That being so, we would be under an obligation to pay them a rental just for the right to remain alive. Put like that, the claim sounds absurd; but it is really no more than the logical continuation of the pathetic backside-licking by which our craven political class ~ Labour, National, the whole pack of useless cowardly swine, our smiling members of parliament, lovely people every last one of them, always ready with a smile and a kind word ~ has sold us down the river for a generation. Down with them all.”
The problem is, of course, that under MMP, the appeasement of radical groups and the gaining of the Treasury benches have become entwined. Both National and Labour embrace the political arm of the Maori sovereignty movement – the Maori Party – knowing that they may have the few critical votes that keep or put them into power. But the effect of this political convenience is that we New Zealanders can no longer sit on the fence and expect our politicians to do the right thing – under MMP, politics no longer works like that.
We also need to properly hold politicians to account for the election promises that they make. It is not good enough that they can promise to abolish the Maori seats, for example, during an election campaign – maybe even gaining office because of it – then shrug their shoulders and do a deal with a coalition partner that postpones such a policy for the duration of their period as government … which is the only time when they are actually in a position to change the law!
David Round is intensely critical of the unprincipled actions of politicians and explains that for the sake of the future, it is time for New Zealanders to step up:
“You may think these words excessively harsh. I’m sorry, but they are not. If you think they are excessively harsh ~ and if you do not tell your MPs, of all parties, in fact ~ what you think of their stupidity, dishonesty and racism, then you ~ yes, you, my friend ~ are part of the problem. We get the government we deserve. I could practically guarantee that if every one of you, reading this column, and agreeing with me, were to phone your MP regularly, and tell him or her precisely what you thought, we would make a difference. We read these columns, we moan to each other, but we don’t moan to the people who matter. It is very nice of you to e-mail me, or telephone me, as some of you do ~ and I do appreciate it! ~ but do not do it any more. Telephone your Members of Parliament. Make appointments to see them. (Don’t bother joining their parties and ‘radicalising from within’; ordinary rank and file members of all political parties are just unpaid fundraisers and cheerleaders, whose views receive very little respect.) Tell them exactly what you think of them and their policies. Don’t just do this once. Make their lives a misery. That is what they are doing to ours, after all. They are running our country into the ground. And, after all, Maori are making their lives a misery. That is actually why Maori are succeeding, because they are actually out there complaining, while we just sit at home and get angry in private. So ~ get up, and do something. Don’t be daunted; don’t put up with you MP’s condescension and racism. STOP BEING NICE. We are at war. At present ~ long may it continue ~ words are our weapons. For heaven’s sake, use them. Muriel & I and the handful of other people who write and do things cannot do it all by ourselves. If you ~ yes, you ~ do not act, then you have only yourself to blame for the consequences.”
Democracy is a long way from being perfect – but it is a system that allows the public will to prevail peacefully. It only works, however, when people find their voice.
The time has come for New Zealanders to speak out against the motives of a powerful minority that has influence across government and the country’s major institutions. We need our politicians to find the spine to stand up to aggressive minorities. Through the force of our collective public voice, we need to persuade them to be the inspirational leaders each may have imagined they could be. We want our politicians to represent our views and aspirations, speaking up for ordinary New Zealanders – the silent majority who voted them into office.
People power is a force that politicians cannot ignore. It just takes one voice – your voice – but when combined with the voices of your family and friends, your neighbours and concerned fellow citizens, it becomes an unstoppable force for change.
As a country, we are now at the point where we can either move forward together as one nation, or become even more deeply divided as two. It’s not about ignoring or disrespecting the rights of Maori – it’s about recognising what’s best for the future of all New Zealanders. It’s a choice – two nations divided, or one nation that is strong.
Through the government’s Constitutional Review, we are being given the opportunity over the next twelve months to decide on the sort of a future we want. We already know what the Maori Party have planned – they want Maori law to be sovereign. If you aspire to a future of equality with all citizens pulling together for New Zealand, then you must act.
Tell your MPs what you think and what you want them to do. Tell them often and hold them to account. They are your MPs and they are required to represent your views in Parliament. We need to remind them that’s what a Parliamentary democracy is. The contact details of all MPs can be found in a convenient format on the PARLIAMENT page of our NZCPR.com website.
Encourage people to sign the DECLARATION OF EQUALITY – one law for all New Zealanders with no special treatment based on race. Help us create a movement for change. By the end of the week more than 20,000 will have signed the Declaration. With twelve months to go before the government begins considering the options for constitutional reform, why not help us reach out to hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders – that would be a force to be reckoned with!
We have now started a fighting fund for a nation-wide public information campaign. The government has given the Maori Party $4 million to spend on convincing New Zealanders that a Treaty based constitution is in the best interests of the country. We need to counter that – to let people know the dangers that lie in a Treaty based constitution, and to remind the country that a future where all citizens are equal is far brighter than one mired in racial division. You can sign the Declaration of Equality and donate to the fighting fund on the www.ConstitutionalReview.org website.
- Chris Finlayson, Crown Offer Accepted by Ngai Tuhoe Settlement Negotiators ↩
- DoC, Briefing to the Incoming Minister of Conservation 2008 ↩
- TV3, Tuhoe deal “monumental” ↩
- Richard Hill, Settlements of Major Maori Claims in the 1940s: a Preliminary Investigation ↩
- NBR, Treaty settlement top-ups likely for Tainui, Ngai Tahu next year ↩